Life has thrown Natalie Broussard her share of curve balls. In spite of them, she has also maintained a life of consistency. She has been with her high school sweetheart for 35 years. She has been at the same desk in her law office for 25 years. And she has, since childhood, been in constant service to others.
What was your first experience with giving back to your community? In the early 2000s, I started serving on the United Way, and through that we developed the Community Impact Committee, which I chaired. Through that, we implemented a program that installed handicapped ramps. I was appalled at how many people in our community were homebound because they didn’t have ramps. I wanted them to have the chance to go outside and get fresh air and feel sunshine when they wanted. It was an amazing program. Companies would sponsor the ramps. It built moral for those companies as well.
What was the defining moment in your life that led you to give back? I have four children, one of my daughters, Mary Ellen, died an hour after she was born. She had trisomy 18 and it’s 100 percent incompatible with life. That changed everything for me. God puts us through trials and tribulations so that we can help others. I use it to witness and to ease the burdens of others. I knew that I wanted to come out of this and not be a victim – I wanted to learn from it and take everything that God intended me to.
Where did that lead you? I started serving on a lot of programs at my church, Highland Baptist. In 2006 I got involved in the American Belarusian Relief Organization. Belarus is still highly contaminated from the Chernobyl disaster. Allowing children to come here for six weeks adds four to six years to their life expectancy. The program introduces them to Jesus Christ, but it takes care of their medical, dental and vision needs. And it’s all donated by the community. We started this thinking we were really going to make a difference in someone’s life, and that’s a joke, because what they do for you is unbelievable. We’ve hosted the same child for 13 years.
So, you ended up with four children after all. Absolutely, without question! His name is Sergi Charnaivski, but if he were here he would tell you his name is Sergi Broussard. He calls us Mama and Papa.
Tell me about your work with Community Emergency Response Team. CERT operates with homeland security and the parish government until the Red Cross comes in. After the flood in 2016, I went to the shelter to see if they needed anything and I never left. You see people at their lowest and it’s my calling to do whatever I can to make it easier on them. I saw these stressed out parents who had no idea when they would be going home. I called the youth group at Highland to come and play games with the kids so their parents didn’t have to worry about entertaining them. Red Cross provides two meals a day. So, I started calling friends and asking them to sponsor meals. This community is so giving.
What inspired you to keep giving back? I look at what I went through with Mary Ellen. I had a home cooked meal in my home every night for six weeks while I was on bed rest. There are so many caring people in this community taking care of one another. It’s hard to sit by and not do the same. When you give, it comes back tenfold.